The newest low for Planned Parenthood is to use the Bible and religion to convince women that they are morally justified in killing their unborn babies.
The organization’s so-called “Pastoral Letter” begins with this outlandish claim:
Many people wrongly assume that all religious leaders disapprove of abortion. The truth is that abortion is not even mentioned in the Scriptures.
Inherent in this statement is the fact that some religious leaders approve of abortion. But it’s not a valid argument to say that because some do that, killing an unborn baby is therefore a morally acceptable choice.
I would like to know who these “religious leaders” are and on what basis they claim that abortion is an acceptable moral choice based on the Bible. I suspect that most if not all the religious leaders Planned Parenthood claims do not “disapprove of abortion” have a very low opinion of the authority of the Bible.
Now to the claim that abortion is “not even mentioned in the Scriptures.” It’s true that there is no “Thou shalt not abort your unborn baby.” The reason for this is that the Sixth Commandment covers unborn babies as well. Unborn babies are viewed as persons. Moreover, no Hebrew woman would ever think of killing her unborn baby. To be barren was one of the worst things for a woman to endure (Gen. 17:15-16; 25:21; 30:1; 1 Sam. 1:2-10; Ps. 113:9; 127:3-5; Luke 1:7; 23:29; Gal. 4:27; Heb. 11:11). To kill an “inheritance from the Lord” would have been unthinkable.
The Bible attributes self-consciousness to preborn babies, something that modern medicine has studied and acknowledged. Jacob and Esau “struggled together within” their mother’s womb (Gen. 25:22). The New Testament offers a similar glimpse into prenatal consciousness: “And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41). “Struggling” and “leaping” are the result of consciousness. Jacob and Esau fighting inside the womb are indicative of their continued fighting outside the womb. John leaps in reaction to Mary’s pregnancy.
Then there’s the case law of Exodus 21:22-25 where two men struggle and a pregnant woman is struck. She goes into labor prematurely and gives birth. “And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child. . .” (Ex. 21:22).
Some commentators claim that the death of the “fetus” is nothing more than a property crime rather than the killing of a human being. This is absurd. Their operating premise is that a preborn baby is not defined as a person. The Bible teaches otherwise. The original Hebrew reads: “And if men struggle with each other and strike a pregnant woman so that her children [yeled] come out. . . .” Notice that the text uses the word “children,” not “products of conception.” The Hebrew word for “children” in this verse is used in other contexts to designate a child already born. For example, in Exodus 2:6 we read: “When Pharaoh’s daughter opened [the basket], she saw the child [yeled], and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children [yeled].’”
If there is no injury to these individuals—the mother and her prematurely delivered child or children—then there is no penalty. If there is injury, then the judges must decide on an appropriate penalty based on the extent of the injury either to the mother and/or her children because both are persons in terms of biblical law.
Some translations have “so that she has a miscarriage.” The 1977 edition of the New American Standard Version translated the text using “miscarriage.” The 1995 translation is better (“she gives birth prematurely”), but it still does not capture the literal rendering. In a marginal note, the NASB translators recognize that the literal rendering of the text is “her children come out.”
Other translations have a more word-for-word translation. Here’s one example:
When men get in a fight and hit a pregnant woman so that her children are born [prematurely] but there is no injury, the one who hit her must be fined as the woman’s husband demands from him, and he must pay according to judicial assessment (Holman Christian Standard Bible).
Notice that it’s “so that her children are born.” Here’s another from Young’s Literal Translation (1898):
And when men strive, and have smitten a pregnant woman, and her children have come out, and there is no mischief, he is certainly fined, as the husband of the woman doth lay upon him, and he hath given through the judges.
There are two Hebrew words that fit the circumstances of miscarriage or premature birth: “There shall be no one miscarrying [shakal] or barren in your land” (Ex. 23:26; also Hosea 9:14). The Hebrew word for “miscarriage” was available to Moses since it appears just two chapters later.
Another example is found in the book of Job: “Or like a miscarriage [nefel] which is discarded, I would not be” (Job 3:16). Meredith G. Kline offers a helpful summary of the passage from Exodus:
This law found in Exodus 21:22–25 turns out to be perhaps the most decisive positive evidence in scripture that the fetus is to be regarded as a living person . . . . No matter whether one interprets the first or second penalty to have reference to a miscarriage, there is no difference in the treatments according to the fetus and the woman. Either way the fetus is regarded as a living person, so that to be criminally responsible for the destruction of the fetus is to forfeit one’s life . . . . The fetus, at any stage of development, is, in the eyes of this law, a living being, for life (nephesh) is attributed to it . . . . Consistently in the relevant data of Scripture a continuum of identity is evident between the fetus and the person subsequently born and Exodus 21:22–25 makes it clear that this prenatal human being is to be regarded as a separate and distinct human life.1
Umberto Cassuto, also known as Moshe David Cassuto (1883–1951), was a Jewish rabbi and biblical scholar born in Florence, Italy. In his commentary on Exodus, he presents an accurate translation of the passage based on the nuances of the Hebrew:
When men strive together and they hurt unintentionally a woman with child, and her children come forth but no mischief happens — that is, the woman and the children do not die — the one who hurts her shall surely be punished by a fine. But if any mischief happens, that is, if the woman dies or the children, then you shall give life for life.”2
The King James Version takes a different translation approach, but it is consistent with the text that “children” are “coming out.” The KJV reads, “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine” (Ex. 21:22). The use of the word “fruit” is a descriptive euphemism for a born child in the Old Testament (Gen. 30:2) and the New Testament (Luke 1:42).
There is no getting around the fact that the Bible opposes killing unborn children, for that’s what they’re called.
- Meredith G. Kline, “Lex Talionis and the Human Fetus,” The Simon Greenleaf Law Review, 5 (1985–1986), 75, 83, 88–89. This article originally appeared in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (September 1977). Also see H. Wayne House, “Miscarriage or Premature Birth: Additional Thoughts on Exodus 21:22-25,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Fall 1978), 108–123. [↩]
- Umberto Cassuto, Commentary on the Book of Exodus (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1967), 275. [↩]